More Stringent Bail Measures for Custodial Death Cases Involving Police Officers: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court adopted a stricter approach to bail in custodial torture cases involving police officers.

The Supreme Court's recent ruling underscores a heightened scrutiny regarding bail in cases involving custodial torture with police officers implicated. Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sanjay Kumar elucidated, "While ordinarily we refrain from invoking our jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution of India to nullify bail orders, such discretion does not extend to cases of custodial death where police officials are implicated as accused. These alleged offenses carry significant gravity and seriousness."

The Bench's decision marks a departure from the conventional approach to bail adjudication, especially in light of the sensitive nature of custodial death allegations. The ruling, which reversed a High Court's decision to grant bail to an accused police official, underscores the gravity of such charges and the need for a more stringent approach.

Upon a meticulous examination of the charge sheet, the Court concluded that the accused police official's involvement extended beyond merely being a driver of a police vehicle. The charges brought forth against him encompassed a range of serious offenses under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including Sections 302, 330, 331, 218, and 120-B. The Court emphasized that the accused's role in the alleged offenses warranted closer scrutiny, as evidenced by the materials presented by the investigating agency.

"We have carefully reviewed the charge-sheet and discern a specific role attributed to respondent No. 3 in the commission of the alleged offenses. Contrary to being limited to a mere driver's role, the materials provided indicate a more active participation in the alleged crimes," the Court observed. While acknowledging that these factors would undergo independent assessment during the trial's evidentiary stage, the Court stressed their relevance in determining the question of bail for respondent No. 3.

In citing the precedent set forth in the State of Jharkhand v Sandeep Kumar case, the Court justified its departure from the customary approach to bail. The severity of the allegation of custodial death against the accused police official warranted a stricter stance, one that the High Court failed to adequately consider while granting bail.

"Given the contents of the charge sheet, we find it inappropriate for respondent No. 3 to have been granted bail within a year and a half of his initial detention. Consequently, we overturn the impugned order and direct respondent No. 3 to surrender before the CBI Court within four weeks. Upon surrender, he shall be taken into custody by the relevant authority," the Court pronounced.

The ruling, which allowed the appeal, reaffirms the Court's commitment to upholding justice, particularly in cases involving allegations of custodial torture and death. By adopting a stricter approach to bail, the Court aims to ensure accountability and deterrence, especially within law enforcement agencies.